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New centre to investigate plant extracts benefits

From left to right: Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh, Alpha-Massey Natural Nutraceutical Research Centre co-director Professor Yi Huai Gao, Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey, Pro Vice-Chancellor College of Health Paul McDonald and Alpha-Massey Natural Nutraceutical Research Centre co-director Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan.

A new research centre investigating whether novel plant extracts may offer potential health benefits has been officially opened at Massey University.

The Alpha-Massey Natural Nutraceutical Research Centre will be funded by Alpha Group Holdings Limited, a large, multi-national company with a New Zealand base which produces supplements based on traditional Chinese medicine and healthful food products.

The centre’s research will evaluate extracts for biological activity from plants common in New Zealand. This will support Alpha Group’s interests in evaluating new opportunities that may transfer to commercial application, but will be completely separate to their current commercial activities and products.

Alpha Group will leverage off the world-class research capability of the Riddet Institute, one of New Zealand’s 10 elite Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) and its host, Massey University. Alpha Group’s scientific and technical staff will also form part of the team.

Co-director of Riddet Institute Distinguished Professor Paul Moughan and Chairman Alpha Group Professor Yi Huai Gao, have been appointed inaugural co-directors of the centre.

College of Health Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul McDonald.

Developing relationships and science

Professor Paul Moughan says the Alpha-Massey Research Centre is a great fit with the Riddet Institute, with its long-held interest in the science of biologicals in addition to food. “The centre will leverage top New Zealand scientific expertise from across our partners to discover healthful attributes of plants common to New Zealand, such as feijoa, tamarillo, cucurbits and certain stone fruit.”

The Riddet Institute has a long-standing relationship with Alpha Group, reflecting their mutual interests in processing, encapsulation and biological activity of foods and extracts. Professor Yi Huai Gao is an Honorary Fellow of the Riddet Institute, and has collaborated on a number of research projects, most recently an investigation into the potential effects of a proprietary Shiitake mushroom extract on markers of immune function.

Distinguished Professor Harjinder Singh says the relationship between Alpha Group and Massey has developed over the years. “It is exciting to see it culminating in the establishment of this new centre, which will combine the experience and knowledge of the Riddet Institute, Massey University and Alpha Group to enhance New Zealand’s research and innovation capacity in natural nutraceuticals. This type of industry-university partnership is a key element of Riddet Institute’s strategy to ensure our science has a real economic impact."

Representatives from Alpha Group and Massey University at the launch of the Centre in Albany last night.

Finding knowledge

Professor Yi Huai Gao says research is about finding new knowledge. “Sometimes new knowledge can come from what everybody else has seen but never thought of. And the best chance of that is when excellent scientists with different perspectives work together. That’s why it is very exciting to have this centre. The Riddet Institute and Alpha have been cooperating on research for many years, and we are glad we could take this a step further through the formation of this centre at Massey University."

 Earlier this year, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Massey University on behalf of the Riddet Institute, Alpha Group and Shanghai’s Tongji University. Alpha Group and Tongji University have jointly established a Natural Medicine Research Institute on the university’s campus, housed in state-of-the-art facilities funded by Alpha Group. The Alpha-Massey Natural Nutraceutical Research Centre will also link through to the Institute at Tongji University.

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